LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A leader of a drug trafficking ting has been sentenced to life in prison for distributing drugs that caused a deadly drug overdose in Madison County.
This is the first life sentence given out for an overdose death in a federal court in Kentucky.
"I think the sentence speaks for itself," said Richmond Police Drug Task Force Commander Bob Mott. "It's a significant sentence. They don't hand out life sentences in federal court very often. This is one of them."
Navarious Westberry, 38, was sentenced to life in prison for bringing significant amounts of heroin and fentanyl that resulted in an overdose death.
"The Court determined that (Westberry's) freedom must be forever forfeited as a result of his criminal conduct," said Kerry B. Harvey, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky in a press release. "I hope that those inclined toward this sort of destructive conduct, whether they live in Kentucky or occupy a higher position in the drug distribution network, take heed – the people of Kentucky have had enough."
Westberry is originally from Michigan, but had addresses in Lexington and Richmond.
Mott said he was the ring leader of an organization of dealers the Richmond police department started investigating in 2014.
"We had already conducted buys from this organization and it was plain to see that they were involved and what they were selling was causing a lot of overdoses in Madison County," Mott said.
"The facts of this case are particularly disturbing," said Kerry B. Harvey, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky in a press release. "Mr. Westberry and his co-conspirators moved to Kentucky from Michigan for the sole purpose of establishing a large scale distribution network for heroin and fentanyl."
Westberry admitted that, from January 2014 until August 2015, he organized and operated a drug trafficking organization in Richmond that distributed between 750 grams and one kilogram of heroin and 50 grams of fentanyl. Fentanyl, which is many times stronger than heroin, can be lethal in the 2 mg range.
"The organization which he led was among the first to introduce large quantities of fentanyl to the Richmond community. The drugs sold by the Westberry organization caused multiple overdoses, including fatalities," Harvey said.
"He was running the organization that was handing it out. He was the one coordinating it coming from Detroit, down to Madison and Fayette County as well. And the stuff that he was selling was killing people and he knew it. The whole organization knew it," Mott explained.
This case was also a first for Kentucky in that federal overdose penalties were applied to out-of-state defendants from Detroit, a major source for illicit drugs.
Four other co-conspirators have pleaded guilty and been sentenced and been sentenced. Benjamin Fredrick Charles Robinson, 21, of Detroit was sentenced to 20 years for distributing a controlled substance that caused another overdose. In that case, the victim survived with medical assistance.
The investigation was conducted by the DEA and the Richmond Police. Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Bradbury prosecuted this case on behalf of the federal government.